Honor X9a Review: Is Honor Back?
In this review, I’ll be talking about my experience with the new Honor X9a. So after a long time—like really, really. long time, I am back with an Honor smartphone review. Now, you might already know that Honor, being a sub-brand of Huawei, also faced the consequences of the Huawei-US ban back in 2019.
This dramatic move from the United States was kinda like the Thanos snap—wiping both Huawei and Honor from using products and services from all US-owned companies including Google. But since the ban was only on Huawei, it could technically save Honor by selling it to other companies. Which means Honor would function as a completely separate entity. And to no one’s surprise, Huawei sold Honor to a Chinese company back in 2020.
Honor X9a Specifications:
- Body: 161.6 x 73.9 x 7.9mm; 175 grams
- Display: 6.67-inches curved AMOLED, 120Hz refresh rate, 10-bit color depth
- Resolution: Full HD+ (1080 x 2400 pixels), 20:9
- Display Protection: Double Re-inforced glass
- Chipset: Snapdragon 695 (6nm Mobile platform)
- CPU: Octa-core
– 2×2.2 GHz Cortex-A78
– 6×1.7 GHz Cortex-A55
- GPU: Adreno 619
- Memory: 8GB RAM, 256GB internal storage
- Software & UI: Magic UI 6.0 based on Android 12
- Rear Camera: Triple;
– 64MP primary
– 5MP ultrawide
– 2MP macro
- Front Camera: 16MP (punch-hole cutout)
- Audio: Single speaker
- Security: Fingerprint scanner (in-display)
- Sensors: Accelerometer, Proximity, Ambient light, Compass, Gyroscope, Gravity
- Connectivity: Dual-SIM (Nano), WiFi 5 a/b/g/n/ac (Dual-band), Bluetooth 5.1, GPS / AGPS / GLONASS / BeiDou / Galileo, USB-C port, 4G LTE (VoLTE), Dual 5G
- Battery: 5,100mAh, 40W wired charging
- Colors: Titanium Silver, Emerald Green, Midnight Black
- Price in Nepal: Rs. 45,990 (8/256GB)
Honor X9a Review:
This allowed Honor to regain access to services from Google and other US-based companies. Since then, Honor has been back in the smartphone industry, and has been making waves with a range of budget, mid-range, and flagship products, including foldables!
In fact, it was quick enough to regain a 15% market share in China in the third quarter of 2021. And in the first and second quarters of 2022, it even became the number one smartphone brand, with a 20% market share. Besides China, Honor has been expanding its business globally as well.
And today, I have the company’s first global launch for 2023, the Honor X9a, which I have been using for a couple of days now. It’s a mid-range phone that recently launched in Malaysia for RM 1,499 for the single 8/256GB variant. That roughly converts to around USD 340 or INR 28,000.
- 6.67″ curved FHD+ AMOLED
- 120/300Hz refresh/touch sampling rate
- Double-reinforced glass protection
The first thing I’d really like to talk about the Honor X9a is its display. Realme recently delivered a stunning curved display in the mid-range segment with the 10 Pro+. And we get a similar experience here as it also comes with curved sides that look and feel incredibly premium.
And it’s not a steep bend—45° to be precise—so I haven’t had any problems with accidental touches of any kind here. But as premium, as it looks, curved screens always pose a risk of damage due to the additional stress on the edges. And to address this, Honor is using what it calls “Deeply Re-inforced Glass” on the X9a, which is said to increase the toughness and rigidity of the screen.
Besides these, the Honor X9a has also secured a bunch of standard durability tests, such as the Marble Drop and Steel Ball Impact. So screen durability shouldn’t be an issue with this guy.
Stunning OLED screen
Moving on, the AMOLED panel here comes with a Full HD+ resolution, 120Hz refresh rate, and a 10-bit color gamut. So, the overall quality of the panel is nice; the colors and contrast here are pretty good too.
And the bezels around the display are also quite minimal, so you will have a great time binging movies and shows. The phone also has Widevine L1 certification for Full HD streaming on OTT platforms.
Speaking of which, I recently finished binging the entire “Wednesday” series on this phone and was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was on my eyes at night.
This was mostly thanks to the 1920Hz PWM dimming which basically reduces the screen-flickering issue in low-lighting situations. Hence, less strain on the eyes.
Audio and Haptics
- Single speaker
- No headphone jack
However, given how good this screen is, Honor should have provided a good-quality stereo speaker here. Not that its single speaker is not loud or clear or anything but as a 2023 mid-range smartphone, I think Honor shouldn’t have compromised on this aspect.
Likewise, I am not satisfied with its haptics either. Instead of subtle and precise feedback, you feel a buzz when you press a key. To compare, I recently reviewed the Redmi Note 12 Pro and Realme 10 Pro+, which offer a much better haptic response.
A distinct design
- 161.6 x 73.9 x 7.9mm, 175 grams
- Glass front, Plastic back/frames
Design-wise, the X9a looks a bit more unique than other smartphones currently available in the market—especially because of this circular camera ring on the back.
Actually, this reminds me of Huawei’s premium Mate series smartphone. But personally, I like it because it looks good and it’s still a unique enough design to differentiate itself from the rest of the crowd.
Thankfully, Honor has also offered a matte finish on the back, so there’s no need to worry about fingerprints and such. Also, it has a glittery finish to it, which I think goes well with the Emerald Green shade that I have with me.
Not to mention, the phone itself is actually really compact, lightweight, and sleek. And with curved edges on both the front and back, it feels very comfortable to hold in hand.
The only flaw with the design is that dirt gets easily accumulated around this camera module, even if you use a cover. So I’ve had to clean it up every now and then.
- Octa-core Snapdragon 695 SoC (6nm)
- 8GB RAM, 256GB storage (non-expandable)
- Magic UI 6.0 based on Android 12
Getting to performance, this is the one area where I think Honor could’ve done a lot better. It comes with the Snapdragon 695 chipset which, as you might know, is last year’s chipset often found on phones under $300.
Although this chipset is more than enough to handle your day-to-day task fairly well, I think, for the price, Honor should have gone with some newer processors like the Snapdragon 7 Gen 1 or Dimensity 1080, which would’ve offered better app opening time and good performance even after a year or two.
Plus, right now, don’t expect this chip to give you an edge in terms of gaming too. Here you are only able to enjoy popular games like PUBG Mobile and Apex Legends in medium settings and get around 40-50fps.
Stable UI, but not convenient
There are also a few things I would like to share about its software. Although I appreciate how stable it has performed throughout my usage and there are no crappy bloatware apps you have to deal with, Honor’s Magic UI still lacks a few convenience-focused features like QR scanning for WiFi, or long-pressing on the home screen to access app widgets. And I think Magic UI’s interface as a whole could be improved significantly as well.
You might also be surprised to find out that it still runs on Android 12 for some reason. And Honor hasn’t even specified any number of guaranteed software updates for the X9a. So, yeah, there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of software.
- 5100mAh battery
- 40W wired charging
On a positive note, I am particularly impressed by Honor in the battery department. Just look at this thing, it’s just 7.9mm thick and weighs only 175 grams. But guess the battery capacity here: 4200mAh? 4500MAh? Nah, it’s a solid 5100mAh unit! Yeah, I’m also surprised to see how Honor was able to fit such a large battery in such a small body.
Anyway, that’s a good thing for users, since this thing gave me about 7-8 hours of constant screen-on-time. Its standby time is also quite good, with just 2-3% of overnight battery drain. As for the charging, you get a 40W adapter inside the box, which takes less than an hour to fully juice up the cell.
- Triple camera setup at the back
- (64MP main, 5MP ultrawide, 2MP macro)
- 16MP selfie (hole-punch cutout)
Ok, let’s talk about cameras now in this review of the Honor X9a. Here, you get a triple-camera setup at the back with a 64MP primary, a low-res 5MP ultra-wide, and a useless 2MP macro sensor. For selfies, there is a 16MP camera on the front.
As always, I took a lot of photos with this smartphone. And what I can say, especially after just reviewing the Note 12 Pro and using the Realme 10 Pro+ as my primary test phone, Honor still has a long way to go in terms of optimizing its cameras and maybe providing better camera sensors.
The photos from the main 64MP camera are usable for the most part, but what the Honor X9a disappointed me the most was in two areas. First, I don’t understand why they included a 5MP ultra-wide lens in a premium mid-range phone. And second, you can only record [email protected] footage from both the front and rear cameras. There’s no OIS stabilization, and Honor has not even offered an option to electronically stabilize the video.
Honor X9a Review: Conclusion
So, with everything considered, I really don’t understand what’s Honor up to with this phone! I really like its design, it’s really good! The curved display on a mid-range phone is also nice to have! It has good battery backup and I can live with its UI too! But compromising on very important aspects like performance, cameras, and stereo speakers doesn’t make me feel like the good old Honor is back.
I remember Honor used to offer incredible midrange smartphones back in the day like the Honor Play with an aluminum back, powerful Kirin 970 chip, and a 4K-recording capable camera—all at a pretty reasonable price.
So I really wished the company could bring back that legacy instead. But, at the moment, I believe Honor still needs to progress even further, be it in terms of software or hardware, to match up with its fellow brands.
For what Honor is asking for this phone, you should consider the Redmi Note 12 Pro or Pro+, both of which have OIS cameras, a much better processor, and a stereo speaker setup. And if you prefer a smartphone with a curved display, the Realme 10 Pro+ is also a better option.
- Watch our video review of the Honor X9a.
Honor X9a Review: Pros and Cons
- Ergonomic design
- Curved AMOLED display
- Solid battery life
- Mediocre performance
- Single speaker
- Average cameras
- Not-so-good haptics